19 April, 2008
By Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)
With the new democratic governments installed and the harmony displayed by all in electing the Speakers, the Deputy Speakers and the Leaders of the Houses unanimously
one had realistically expected them to gird up their loins and set themselves to the arduous task of nation building, ameliorating the lot of the poor and firming up the foundations of the democratic institutions in the country. The way the erstwhile acrimonious political parties started with hand in glove and full blast mutual co-operation nothing seemed impossible for them to achieve. They turned a hung parliament into a very powerful – almost 2/3 majority – parliament. Every thing looked milk and honey but then the evil witch started casting its evil eye. The MLN ministers were the first to fall under its spell at a ceremony which would have been otherwise a delight to remember for all. They refused to sit into their chairs so that they did not have to rise as a mark of respect for the President when he entered the hall. Though the President’s blood must have boiled up in his veins when he got to know of their this attitude but he swallowed his pride just to save the very infantile democracy still in the making. Had the commando blood gotten the better of him and he had refused to attend the ceremony, where would have been the democracy? Agreed, they had the mandate of the people behind them, but he too was the President of the country and the Commander in Chief of ALL THE ARMED FORCES of Pakistan. Agreed, it would have been very difficult for him to invoke article 58-2B, but does a man foaming at the mouth has any control over his raucous rage and emotions? The result is clear like a day. Some for him some against him and the Civil War. As if this insult was not enough they added salt to the injury by wearing black arm bands while taking the oath. Still not satisfied, they boycotted the tea hosted by the President soon after the ceremony. Still persisting and not realising that there are certain norms and protocols to be followed on foreign tours, the haughty MNL ministers refused to be the part of President’s retinue on his official visit to our most friendly neighbouring country – China. Perhaps, they were not missed or become conspicuous by their absence as the PPP ministers were there to fill in the gap. As if sworn to be on the loggers head with the President, the MLN minister for Sports and Culture crossed all limits the other day when he did not show up at the Olympic Torch ceremony at Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad. Probably he did not realise that the Olympics 2008 are being held in Beijing China and the Olympic Torch – a symbol of universal fraternity - was passing through Pakistan – a country considered to be on the most friendly terms with China. Whether he liked to be at a place where the President was the Chief Guest or not, it was his duty to be there, if for nothing else just for the sake of our most trusted friends – the Chinese. The function was also marred by another incidence as reported by the Daily Azkar – that when the President arrived at the ceremony the genial and gentile Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was already there, wanted to walk towards the President to welcome him but was stopped by an other hawkish minister of PPP from doing so. The President once again ignored the humiliation smiling though peevishly and shook hands with all there including the cocky minister.
One must admire the large heartedness of the President as the swallowing of insult after insult is not an easy matter for any lesser mortal and still not lose his composure. Now, on the top of it all they want him to address the Opening Session of the Parliament as supposedly required by the constitution. He had not done it in the past just because of the simple reason that he did not want to be booed and bayed, which unfortunately has become the norm with our parliamentarians. It started with the late BB’s thumping the desks and shouting Go Baba Go throughout the inaugural address of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Similar insults were hauled upon President Farooq Leghari also in the same august house on more than one occasion. President Musharraf too was given a little taste of it during his first and only address so far, which evoked certain unsavoury remarks from him for the parliamentarians. The way the stage is set against him it looks pretty obvious that he would not be shown the respect due to the President of the country. Talking impartially, what is the purpose of the Head of the State addressing the new legislators? To recount and remind them of their responsibilities of the onerous task of law making in the country for all to follow. Or, is it to insult the holder of the highest office of the land in a most cantankerous manner and with a shouting behaviour? It is, therefore, quite likely that he would avoid the direct confrontation with the legislators which would be in the best interest of democracy in the country.– unless he is assured of an orderly and respectful decorum worthy of the Head of the State. Now a days the media and the satellites carry all becoming and unbecoming spectacles to every house around the globe in a jiffy. Why make a mockery of ourselves and wash our dirty linen in others’ court yard, as they say ?!